27 Beautiful European Palaces For Your Travel Bucket List

Once the homes of kings and emperors, popes and bishops, European palaces are an important part of the continent’s historical and cultural heritage. Designed as potent symbols of the power and wealth of their occupants, many of these palaces are extraordinarily beautiful.

Attracting millions of visitors every year, today these architectural gems are stuffed with artistic treasures and offer tantalising insights into the lives of the nobility, past and present. 

But which are the best European palaces to add to your travel bucket list?

To help you make your mind up, I have reached out to top travel bloggers for their hand-picked choices of palaces to visit in Europe. From the Moorish masterpiece of the Alhambra to the romantic castle that inspired Walt Disney, here are the most spectacular European palaces that you must see.

fairytale castle that is a beautiful European palace with a mountain and lake backdrop

Schönbrunn Palace, Austria

By Bridget of The Flashpacker

Schloss Schönbrunn, Vienna at Christmas
Schloss Schönbrunn, Vienna at Christmas

Vienna’s Schönbrunn Palace, or Schloss Schönbrunn, is a European royal palace in all of its gilded glory.

Designated a UNESCO World Heritage site in 1996, Schönbrunn Palace was designed as an imperial hunting lodge for the son of Emperor Leopold I, Crown Prince Joseph. Over the course of the 18th Century, it grew into a palatial imperial residence for the mighty Habsburg Empire. Ownership of Schönbrunn Palace passed to the Republic of Austria at the end of the monarchy in 1918.

Schönbrunn Palace is a must-see if you are a Mozart fangirl or fanboy. It is here that Austria’s wunderkind gave his first public performance in front of Empress Elisabeth.

Finally, if you are visiting Vienna at Christmas, the Schönbrunn Palace is home to one of the city’s best Christmas markets, albeit on a small scale.

The Palace is open year-round. Schloss Schönbrunn is at Schönbrunner Schloßstraße 47 and the nearest subway station is Schönbrunn.

Palace of the Shirvanshahs, Azerbaijan

By Ellis of Backpack Adventures

islamic palace illuminated at twilight

The Palace of the Shirvanshahs in the old walled city of Baku is considered to be a pearl of Azerbaijan’s architecture. Together with the nearby maiden tower, it is part of the UNESCO World Heritage list of historical monuments.

This 15th Century palace was built by the Shirvanshah, who ruled large parts of Azerbaijan from the 8th till the 16th century. Although relatively unknown, they were one of the longest-existing dynasties in the Islamic world. Their first capital in the city of Shamakhi was moved to Baku after an earthquake in 1411. 

Baku was an obvious choice as it was an important trade centre on the Silk Road, and construction of the Palace of the Shirvanshahs started immediately. The palace was built over a long period of time, starting with the main building, its several mosques, mausoleums, shrines and portals added later. 

But this was not just a palace. In its location was the tomb of a holy Sufi saint and Shirvanshah Khalillulah buried himself and his family there too. 

After the fall of the Shirvanshah dynasty, the palace was occupied by the Safavids and the Ottomans and eventually fell into ruin. Careful restoration in the 20th century restored it to its former glory. 

The Palace of the Shirvanshahs is now a museum and is open daily from 10 am to 6 pm. It is within walking distance from the Icheri Seher Metro station.

Rosenborg Slot, Denmark

By Emma of Emma Jane Explores

turreted red brick exterior of rosenberg castle

Copenhagen is a city that European castle lovers will want to explore. There’s plenty of royal palace life to be uncovered with three palaces in the city centre – Christiansborg Slot, Amalienborg Slot and Rosenborg Slot.  

If you are only able to visit one of the three major palaces in Copenhagen, though, make sure it is Rosenborg Slot.

Built in 1606, this beautiful summer palace is located in the King’s Garden (Kongens Have in Danish) in the city centre. Designed by former monarch Christian IV, this turreted fairytale-like castle is smaller than the other Danish palaces, but is unparalleled in its loveliness.  

The Danish Crown Jewels are on display in the basement of the palace and you can get right up close to them, much more so than the English crown jewels in London.  

Buckingham Palace, England

By Bridget of The Flashpacker

gates and colonnaded facade of buckingham palace

One of the most famous European palaces and an iconic London landmark,  Buckingham Palace is the official London royal residence and the administrative headquarters of the British monarch. 

Built in 1703 as a townhouse for the Duke of Buckingham, it was acquired by King George in 1761 as a private residence for Queen Charlotte. The 19th Century saw a significant expansion of the premises and, in 1837, Buckingham Palace became the official London royal residence when Queen Victoria ascended the throne.

This royal palace also serves as the backdrop to the Changing of the Guard Ceremony, which takes place at 11 am on Monday, Wednesday, Friday, and Sunday and daily in the summer.

Do you want to walk in the footsteps of the Royals and Heads of State? If so, you can take a look at some of Buck House’s 775 rooms when the Queen takes her summer holiday to Balmoral Castle on a tour of the State Rooms.

Tower of London, England

By Bridget of The Flashpacker

the tower of london exterior

A fixture on London’s landscape for over a thousand years, this former royal palace has also been a fortress, the site of a royal menagerie, the Royal Mint, armouries and was used to store records of government. However, most people visit the Tower of London to view the Crown Jewels and to learn more about its sometimes grisly history.

The Crown Jewels are the world-famous gold and gem-encrusted ceremonial items that have been worn by British kings and queens over the centuries. Expect to queue to view them in the aptly named Jewel House.

From 1100 until 1952, 8,000 people were imprisoned at the Tower of London for crimes ranging from treason and conspiracy to murder and sorcery. Its most famous occupants include Anne Boleyn and Guy Fawkes.

One of the best things to do at the Tower of London is to take a free 45-minute tour with one of the famous Yeoman Warders. These Beefeaters, as they are also known, are knowledgeable and entertaining in equal measure and deliver the Tower’s tales of pain and passion, treachery and torture with style.

Palais des Papes, France

By Nadine of Le Long Weekend

beige stone exterior of palais des papes on a sunny evening

Located at the heart of Avignon’s old town, the Palais des Papes, or Pope’s Palace, is an iconic site in the South of France.

Built in several stages, the construction of this Medieval palace started in the 14th century under the direction of Pope Benedict XII, but each of his successors also left their mark on the palace. The palace remained the property of the church until the French Revolution in the 18th Century when it became a prison and a place of executions for counter-revolutionaries.

In the 20th century, the Palais des Papes was transformed into a museum that has become one of the most popular things to do in Avignon.

The nearby Pont d’Avignon and the episcopal complex form a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

You’ll receive a histopad as part of your entrance fee that provides an interactive self-guided tour of the palace in your own language.

To reach the Palais des Papes, simply head into the centre of Avignon where you’ll see it rising above the terracotta rooftops of the old town. There’s free parking a short walk away, over the bridge on the l’Ile de la Barthelasse.

Palace of Versailles, France

By Bridget of The Flashpacker

formal garden with circular fountain and manicured hedges
Versailles Garden

The Palace of Versailles (Chateau de Versailles) has to be seen to be believed.

Built for King Louis XIV, The Sun King, in the 17th Century, Versailles set the bar high for future European palaces. It took 40,000 workers over 50 years to convert Louis XIII’s former hunting lodge into this extravagant palace, which was the setting for royal lives so decadent that they incited a revolution.

A UNESCO world heritage site since 1979, Versailles is famed for its Hall of Mirrors, where the Treaty of Versailles was signed, ending World War I. Elsewhere in the palace, there are the six sumptuous Grand Appartements and an impressive library with carved panels and a gilded astronomical clock.

Versailles’ extensive grounds are as famous as the palace itself. These vast and vainglorious gardens feature a lake, canals and geometric flower beds to create a French Eden.

The Palace of Versailles is an easy day trip from Paris. Located in the Ile de France region,  20 km southwest of the French capital, the journey will take you 20 – 35 minutes by train.

Alternatively, visit Versailles on an organised day tour from Paris that includes your ticket and an audio guide.

Nymphenburg Palace, Germany

From Rachel of Means to Explore

swans on lake in front of nymphenburg palace

Although activities in Munich revolve around its historic city centre, there are many incredible day trip opportunities nearby. Head a few stops west on Tram 17 or Bus 51 and discover Nymphenburg Palace, an opulent Bavarian royal palace with an enormous garden park to rival any European equivalent.

Stepping off public transport at the Schloss Nymphenburg stop, you’re greeted by the grand canal and fountain that dominates the front entrance. Admire the gold architectural detailing and the windows that cover every inch of the palace’s exterior walls.

The main palace features a ballroom dripping with crystal chandeliers, decorative murals, and gold detailing and King Ludwig I’s famous Gallery of Beauties.

Next is the Marstallmuseum in the stables. Ever wanted to see a gold carriage up close? Don’t skip the stables!

Only 15 minutes from today’s city centre, Nymphenburg Palace was considered to be in the countryside when it was built. Nymphenburg’s enormous garden park includes four additional mini-palaces, just in case the royals got tired of the large palace and wanted a cosier alternative.

Neuschwanstein Castle, Germany

By Krystianna of Volumes & Voyages

fairytale castle that is a beautiful european palace with a mountain and lake backdrop
The Bavarian fairytale castle of Neuschwanstein, one of the most beautiful palaces in Europe

Neuschwanstein Castle is another day trip opportunity from Munich and is easily one of the most beautiful palaces in Europe. Located in Bavaria, this castle was Walt Disney‘s inspiration when creating some of the palaces for his princesses.

This 19th Century was home to King Ludwig, also known as the Mad King of Bavaria, who dedicated it to the life and work of Richard Wagner. Construction started in 1869 but was never completed.

The most common way to get to the palace is on a day excursion from a nearby city. There are a few ways to get to Neuschwanstein Castle from Munich, making it one of the best day trips in the area. You can take the train, drive there, or visit on a day tour.

The only way to visit the castle is on a guided tour. Tours happen at specific times depending on the day and are available in multiple languages.

As Neuschwanstein Castle is popular, purchase tickets online beforehand to ensure that you’ll be able to join a tour.

Alternatively, visit Neuschwanstein Castle on an organised day trip from Munich.

Sanssouci Palace, Germany

By Sam of My Flying Leap

yellow facade of sanssouci palace on a sunny day

Sanssouci is a beautiful palace in Potsdam, Germany that was built for Frederick the Great of Prussia in the mid-1700s. Designed to be the German equivalent of the French Palace of Versailles, albeit smaller, it’s every bit as stunning.

Sanssouci is part of a UNESCO World Heritage site along with some other palaces and gardens in the region. Although it only contains ten main rooms, they are large and luxuriously decorated.

“Sans souci” means carefree or without concern in French. This summer palace was intended to be a retreat and not a seat of power, and it was known to be King Frederick’s favourite place. 

He was known as the “potato king” as he introduced the crop to his resistant, bread-loving country. He outsmarted them by branding it as a royal food to gain acceptance. To this day, people leave potatoes on his grave, located on the grounds of Sanssouci.

There are a number of ornate structures on the palace grounds and an extensive art collection. The magnificent Sanssouci gardens are also a highlight of this exquisite palace.

Sanssouci is an easy day trip by train from Berlin.

Würzburg Residence, Germany

By Daniel and Ilona of Top Travel Sights

cherry blossom framing the wurzburg residenz

The 18th Century Würzburg Residence in Germany is a UNESCO World Heritage site and one of the most beautiful European palaces you can visit.

Johann von Schönborn, the Prince-Bishop of Würzburg, commissioned it with the vision of building a palace similar to the one in Versailles. It took multiple decades to build the Residence, and Johann and his successors paid much more than anticipated for the construction.

Despite, or maybe because of, the high cost, the Würzburg Residence is considered a masterpiece of Baroque architecture.

The best way to see the palace is by exploring the interior first, followed by a walk through the gardens. Its rooms are masterfully decorated with gold ornaments and original furniture. Joining a guided tour helps you learn more about the building and its history.

Visiting Würzburg on a day trip by train is one of the best things to do in Frankfurt. Regional trains leave regularly from Frankfurt and take between one and two hours.

The Würzburg Residence is also an easy day trip from Nuremberg.

Doge’s Palace, Italy

By Linda of La Dolce Fit Vita

bridge of sighs in venice crossin narrow canal
Bridge of Sighs

Although this palace might not look like your typical fairytale European palace, ignore it at your peril. The Doge’s Palace embodies the rich history of what used to be one of the most powerful republics in the world: the Venetian Republic.

Venice has a reputation of having been a ruthless republic, with its infamous Council of Ten who would mercilessly convict anyone suspected of treason. All matters were conducted in absolute secrecy behind closed doors and an intricate system of espionage was put in place.

On a guided tour of the Doge’s Palace, you will get to visit the various inquisition chambers including the room of torture. The infamous Nuove Prigioni  (New Prison’s Building) is also a part of this tour.

The convicted would move directly from the trial rooms to their final prison cells via the Bridge of Sighs without ever being able to step foot outside again. It is said that prisoners would take one last glimpse out onto the Venetian lagoon and sigh before heading in to serve their lifelong sentences.

However, this palace is not all about its grim history. 

Because the palazzo was also the official residence of the Doge, the leader of the republic, the entire palace is adorned with exquisite artwork. The exterior presents a gorgeous composition of marbles all sculpted and carved intricately in a uniquely distinct Venetian gothic style.

The Doge’s Palace is located in the heart of the city in Piazza San Marco, Saint Mark’s Square. There are many types of tours available but consider going on the Secret Itineraries Tour, which grants access to some of the palace’s secret rooms and passageways.

Palazzo Pitti, Italy

By Bridget of The Flashpacker

colonnaded facade of pitti palace under blue sky

Hugging the River Arno, and a short distance from the Ponte Vecchio, is Florence’s Pallazo Pitti (Pitti Palace). This is one of the most famous palaces in Europe and a must-see if you are visiting Florence or Tuscany.

Built in 1457 by a powerful banker named Luca Pitti, this palace and its extensive grounds were bought by Cosimo de Medici in the 1540s. Cosimo and his wife, Eleanor of Toledo, liked the Pitti Palace so much that they relocated from the medieval Palazzo Vecchio. The palace remained the residence of the Medici, and later the House of Lorraine, until 1868.

The Pitti Palace is home to four separate museums, which house works by the great Renaissance masters Titian and Raphael. 

Adjoining the palace are the lovely Boboli Gardens. Planned and landscaped by Cosimo in the mid-16th Century, these spectacular gardens are adorned with grottos and large fountains, including the Fountain of Neptune and the Fountain of the Ocean. 

Rundāle Palace, Latvia

By Martha of Quirky Globetrotter

fountain in front of yellow facade of rundale palace in europe

Also called the Baroque Pearl, the Rundāle Palace is a hidden gem tucked into Latvia’s rolling countryside. Located 1.5 hours south of Riga, Rundale Palace is a dazzling example of baroque architecture.

Rundāle Palace was built for the Duke of Courland Ernest Johann von Biron during the mid-18th Century. Construction of the palace began in 1736 but as Biron was exiled from Latvia for 22 years, its completion was delayed until 1768.

The palace was damaged during both World Wars and also during Latvia’s War of Independence.

Restoration of the palace started in 1972 until 2015. After restoration, the Rundāle Palace opened for tours to experience the luxurious grounds and interior.

Inside the palace, guests are guided by historians dressed in traditional dress from the 1700s.

Guests visit the elaborate throne room and the duke and duchess’s sleeping chambers. The ceilings in the throne room are adorned with exquisite stuccos of cherubs and dazzling chandeliers. Oil paintings and portraits fill the staterooms.

Don’t miss touring the Rundāle Palace’s extensive grounds which feature orchards, ponds, a hunting park and greenhouses. The manicured gardens, that lie close to the palace’s walls, are filled with roses and trimmed hedges. 

Visitors can reach the palace via public transit or can book guided tours that start from Riga.

Grand Ducal Palace, Luxembourg

By Tjaša of The Travel Momento

exterior of ducal palace in luxembourg on a sunny day

Luxembourg is the only remaining grand duchy in the world. As such, the Palace of the Grand Dukes, also known as Grand Ducal Palace, is one of the country’s main attractions and a sight you should not miss while visiting Luxembourg.

Located at the heart of the old city centre of Luxembourg, the building in which the Grand Ducal Palace is housed was used as a town hall before becoming the official residence of the Duke of Luxembourg.

Official meetings have taken place here since 1890 and it is where the Duke performs his main duties. All foreign heads of state are accommodated in the palace during their official visit.

It features a Flemish Renaissance facade from the 15th Century. During the summer months (July and August), you can book a guided tour of the interior, known for the marble staircases leading up to several function rooms.

If you are visiting Luxembourg in the summer you can also watch the ceremony of the changing of the guard, which takes place in front of the palace. After viewing the palace make sure to wander around the Grund, one of Luxembourg City’s oldest neighbourhoods and a UNESCO World Heritage site.

Royal Palace of Amsterdam, The Netherlands

By Dymphe of Dymabroad

pigeons in square in front of palace in amsterdam

The Royal Palace in Amsterdam, located in Dam Square, is one of the most stunning palaces in Europe. Built around the year 1650, during a period of Dutch history known as the Golden Age, the palace was originally the town hall of Amsterdam.

Created to display the wealth of the city to the world, at the time that it was built Amsterdam’s Royal Palace was the largest non-religious building in the world. At the beginning of the 19th Century, the town hall became a palace and is now one of the official residences of the Dutch royal family.

Whilst the architecture of the building is very beautiful, the inside of the Royal Palace is also well worth seeing and is home to many paintings.

Going here is a fun activity during winter in Amsterdam. It’s an easy 10-minute walk to the palace from the central station of Amsterdam.

Wilanow Palace, Poland

By Or of My Path in the World 

lemon exterior of wilanow palace with formal garden on a sunny day

The Wilanow Palace is not only one of the best places to visit in Warsaw but it is also one of the most beautiful European palaces.

Built for King John III Sobieski in the 17th century, it’s one of the few monuments in the city that survived World War II. Over the years, the palace was owned by other Polish royals who enlarged and remodelled it.

While on the outside you can admire the palace’s beautiful yellow facade, inside you can wander around different rooms, including the Dutch Room and the White Room. The palace also has gorgeous gardens, which in winter turn into a magical wonderland illuminated with thousands of lights.

The Wilanow Palace is open on Thursdays, Saturdays, and Sundays, and it offers free admission on Thursdays. It is also easily reachable by bus (180 or 116) from the city centre.

National Mafra Palace, Portugal

By Jorge & Cláudia of Portugal Things

yellow exterior of mafra palace on a sunny day

The National Mafra Palace, also known as the Mafra Convent-Palace, is a Baroque and Neoclassical Palace built during the 18th century in Mafra, about 25 km from Lisbon.

Constructed between 1717 and 1755, it is a huge building with more than 1200 rooms, 4700 doors and windows, 156 staircases, and 29 patios. It was inscribed as a World Heritage site in 2019, together with its gardens and hunting park.

The Palace’s exterior is stunning with its imposing 220-meter façade, built of local limestone, two huge square towers with a bulbous dome, and the basilica in the middle. However, you shouldn’t miss visiting the interior as the tour will take you through several luxurious rooms, including the King’s and Queen’s rooms.

However, the real highlight is the Library. The Library of Mafra Palace, known as the Joanina Library, is considered one of the most beautiful in the world, with a huge collection of 36,000 volumes, attesting to much of the Western knowledge from the 14th to the 19th century.

Pena Palace, Portugal

By Carol of Is This Even a Road

vibrant yellow pena palace

Looking like it has been lifted straight from a Disney fairytale, the brightly coloured Pena Palace is easily one of the most beautiful palaces in Europe. This UNESCO World Heritage site, set amongst acres of trails with lush grounds and pristine landscaping, is also considered to be one of the Seven Wonders of Portugal.

In the 19th century, King Ferdinand II built the extravagant yellow and red palace Pena Palace as a summer home for Portuguese royalty. The Our Lady Pena Chapel is much older; it was originally built in this location in the Middle Ages and still remains part of the palace.

Pena Palace is located in Sintra, 34km from Lisbon. It can be reached by car or by train from Lisbon to Sintra with a bus transfer. There is also a beautiful but steep 50-minute garden trail walk to the palace.

Alternatively, visit Pena Palace on an organised day trip from Lisbon.

You can buy a ticket for just the park or for both the park and the palace. With a park-only ticket, you get excellent views of the gardens, chapel and outside of the palace. The combined ticket buys you access to the ornate staterooms.

Arrive at Pena Palace early to avoid the worst of the crowds.

Peles Castle, Romania

By Emily of Wander-Lush

fairytale peles castle with turrets

Though commonly referred to as Peles Castle (Castelul Peleș), this historical landmark in Central Romania is, in fact, a palace, and one of the most impressive in Europe at that.

Built in the Neo-Renaissance style between 1873 and 1914, Peles sits in the Carpathian Mountains near the pretty Romanian town of Sinaia, roughly 1.5 hours from Bucharest by train. 

Alternatively, combine a visit to Peles Castle with Bran Castle (‘Dracula’s Castle‘) by taking an organised day trip from Bucharest.

King Carol I, the country’s second monarch, had Peles built as his summer home.

No expense was spared in the decoration or the infrastructure. When it was inaugurated in 1883, this was the first castle in the world to be fully powered by locally produced electricity.

The palace’s aesthetic is often described as ‘palatial alpine’ and blends different European styles. For this reason, you’ll notice a lot of familiar features that you might recognise from other palaces in Europe, including hand-painted Saxon murals and Baroque woodcarvings.

There are more than 170 rooms in total, some themed around different styles (Florentine, Moorish, French).

Whilst it is not a UNESCO site, the palace is recognised for its cultural significance in the region. After a period under state control during Romania’s communist regime, it was returned to the Royal Family and now serves as a museum.

Catherine Palace, Russia

 By Bridget of The Flashpacker

blue and white facade of catherine palace with four statues

Located in the town of Tsarskoye Selo, 30 km south of St. Petersburg, the Catherine Palace is a spectacular fake.

This summer residence of the Russian Tsars was originally presented by Peter the Great to his second wife, Catherine I, in the early 18th Century. Around 40 years later, it was rebuilt in the more flamboyant rococo style. 

When the Siege of Leningrad was lifted in 1944, the retreating German forces destroyed the residence, leaving a hollow shell. Only ten of the palace’s halls escaped destruction.

Therefore, although magnificent, what we see today is a reconstruction. Even the famed Amber Room is a facsimile.

As German forces advanced towards St. Petersburg,  the Russians attempted to hide the splendour of the amber panels beneath mundane wallpaper (due to their fragility it was not possible to remove these to a safe location along with the other precious artefacts in Leningrad). However, the Germans were not fooled, discovering and disassembling the Amber Room’s panels. 

The fate of these original panels is not known. Today’s Amber Room is the result of an extensive and expensive 24-year reconstruction which was started in 1979.  

The easiest way to get to Catherine Palace by public transport is by bus from three metro stations: Moskovskaya, Zvezdnaya, and Kupchino. The journey time is 50 – 60 minutes. 

In summer, as there are long queues to visit the Palace, it’s a good idea to buy tickets online in advance.

For sheer convenience, this is one European palace that is worth visiting on an organised day tour.

Alhambra Palace, Spain

By Milijana of World Travel Connector

marble and gilt courtyard at alhambra palace

Alhambra Palace in picturesque Granada in Spain is one of the most magnificent palaces in Europe.

The Alhambra is both a UNESCO World Heritage site and one of the most visited places in the world. Visiting the Alhambra is a must-have, once-in-lifetime experience.

Alhambra is an architectural and artistic masterpiece.

The whole Alhambra complex features an exceptional mix of Roman, Moorish, and Renaissance styles. But the most impressive parts of the Alhambra complex are the opulent Nasrid Palaces with the famous Patio of the Lions and the exquisite Generalife Palace and Gardens.

When planning your visit to Alhambra, keep in mind the number of visitors per day is limited. Therefore, buying an Alhambra ticket online on the official Alhambra site in advance is highly recommended.

While entrance to the Nasrid Palaces is allowed only within the time slot indicated on the ticket, the rest of the Alhambra complex can be toured the whole day.

An Alhambra visit takes about 3 hours on average, but your memories of visiting Alhambra will last forever.

La Alcazaba, Spain

By Cristina of My Little World of Travelling

pathway lined with orange tress leading to stone gateway

Our next European palace is also in Andalucia. When visiting Malaga, you cannot miss the opportunity to see La Alcazaba, a stunning Moorish fortress-palace located in the city centre. 

The palace was built between 1057 and 1063, during the period in which Muslims conquered Al-Andalus (nowadays known as Andalusia). Although the building’s primary purpose was defensive, beauty was not sacrificed for function.

La Alcazaba has beautiful features such as impressive patios and spaces around gardens and pools.

Stroll around the palace’s gardens, which are filled with fragrant jasmine flowers, a symbol of Málaga. Contemplate the detailed architecture in the palace rooms, and enjoy the panoramic views of the city.

Next to La Alcazaba, you can also visit the remains of a Roman theatre, or have a culinary experience at El Pimpi, a very popular but traditional restaurant where not only will you taste delicious food, but have lovely views of the palace.

Entrance is free every Sunday from 2 pm.

Real Alcazar of Seville, Spain

By Bridget of The Flashpacker

reflective pond in the centre of an ornate Moorish courtyard seen when visiting the real alcazar of seville

The Real Alcázar of Seville is a jewel box of patios and halls with gardens perfumed with the scent of jasmine and myrtle.

It was built by Pedro I, also known as Pedro the Cruel, between 1350 and 1369 on the site of a former Moorish alcázar (fortress) in Seville. The royal palace was designed and built by Muslim workers from Granada, and is one of the best surviving examples of Mudéjar architecture, a fusion of Moorish and European tastes and techniques.

Featuring delicately carved stucco, azulejos (tiles) and carved wooden doors, the Patio de las Doncellas (Patio of the Maidens) is the showstopper of the Alcázar. The palace’s rambling gardens feature tinkling fountains, reflecting pools, stone benches embellished with azulejos and an abundance of fragrant orange trees. There are even resident strutting peacocks.

Beat the crowds by visiting the Royal Alcázar as it opens its doors, and buy your ticket in advance at busier times to skip the epic queues at the ticket office.

Royal Palace of Madrid, Spain

By Ucman of BrownBoyTravels

exterior of wide facade of madrid royal palace behind a rectangular courtyard

The Royal Palace of Madrid (Palacio Real de Madrid) is the largest royal palace in Spain and Europe by floor area. With 3418 rooms, it is also the largest functioning palace. 

Located near the cathedral of Madrid and fronted by the vast Plaza de la Armería, the palace is the official seat of the Spanish royal family in Madrid. Today, it is used mainly for ceremonies.

The Royal Palace of Madrid has an impressive armoury, a grand and ornate library as well as the apartments of Kings and Queens. Its ceilings are beautifully decorated with frescoes.

Take time also to visit the palace’s expansive gardens which have flowers blooming almost all year round. 

An entrance fee applies but there is free entry on certain dates of the year.

Drottningholm Palace, Sweden

By Dhara of It’s Not About the Miles

beautiful palace in front of a lake

Visiting Drottningholm Palace should be at the top of your list of things to do in Stockholm.  Unlike the Royal Palace in the city centre, which is the official residence of the Swedish royal family and used only for official purposes, this is where the royals actually live.  

Designated as a UNESCO World Heritage site, Drottningholm Palace was designed after the fashion of Versailles, right down to the golden gate. Located on its own island in the Stockholm archipelago, the palace can be accessed via local train and bus, but it is worth paying to arrive by ferry because the views of the palace from the water are fabulous.

At the complex, admire the beautiful exterior of the palace, tour the reception rooms inside, and visit the formal gardens adjacent to the palace.  Also take the time to stroll the palace’s extensive grounds, with pathways lined by mature trees.

The complex is also home to the beautiful Drottningholm Palace Theatre, which still hosts performances and has some of the original stage machinery. Lastly, do not miss the Chinese Pavilion, which houses an extensive collection of Chinese artefacts.

Topkapi Palace, Turkey

By Roxanne of Faraway Worlds

lavishly decorated interior of harem at topkaki palace
Harem at Topkaki Palace

Built in the 15th Century, Topkapi Palace was once the home of sultans and the administrative centre of the Ottoman Empire. It’s an impressive building, with all the trappings of a medieval castle on the outside and almost overwhelming opulence inside.

The sultans lived at the Topkapi Palace for about 350 years, but the royal treasures remained there once the royal family had moved on. It’s an expansive building that includes four courts, a treasury and a harem complex spread across six floors.

Now a museum, the palace is part of UNESCO’s Historic Areas of Istanbul and is well worth visiting on any trip to the city. Situated in the historic Sultanahmet district, Topkapi is easily accessible regardless of where you stay in Istanbul, either by walking or via the metro.

You can explore the museum yourself or opt for a tour to learn more about its history. There is an additional cost to visit the harem. The museum is closed on Tuesdays.

Why you Should Add These European Palaces to your Travel Bucket List

Visiting Europe’s palaces is to step back in time. These grand residences represent gateways into the past, their magnificent ballrooms and royal staterooms telling stories of former glories.

Most people will know the famous European palaces;  Versailles, Buckingham Palace and the Alhambra, for example.  However, as this article has demonstrated, there are many other, lesser-known ones that beg to be explored.

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About Bridget

Bridget Coleman has been a passionate traveller for more than 30 years. She has visited 70+ countries, most as a solo traveller.

Articles on this site reflect her first-hand experiences.

To get in touch, email her at hello@theflashpacker.net or follow her on social media.